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Cross-Cultural Adoption


The Glory of Black Hair


© 2011 by Deborah A. Beasley ACPI CCPF

If you are Caucasian parents raising African American children, like I am, learning proper care of your child’s hair can become a slippery process.  The daily confrontation with thick curly hair, tangles, tears, and intricate styling methods can leave even the most adventurous parent feeling like she’s all thumbs!   Well, grab the detangler and a towel ‘cause things are about to get messy!

Black hair is lathered with products that sound as though they belong in the kitchen.  Products like carrot and olive oil, coconut and soy oil, and, yes, even castor oil.  It is dressed with pomade, pudding, and something called Hair Food!  These gel-like, oil-based products come in strange colors of black, dark green, and blue.   They typically carry warnings that say: “Highly flammable!  Keep hair away from open flame!”

All of this is enough to make a white woman tremble with the prospect of having to do their child’s hair!   Relax!  Before you are through you will be able to section straight parts and bead braids with the best of them!

 Invest, Organize and Get Comfortable

Every woman knows there are certain things a well coifed doo can’t do without.   All that hair a top those little brown heads will need special care to stay looking and behaving well.  There is always a cost to looking beautiful and keeping up with your child’s curly locks is no exception.

Here are some ideas to help you begin:

  • Consider finding a well stocked beauty supply shop.   Better yet find one that serves the African American community.  You will save money on the many items you need at a beauty supplier and benefit from built in advice and mentoring available from employees or shop owners.   (Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. They already know we don’t know what we’re doing!)
  • Gather a few cute baskets or other containers for storing essential hair accoutrements.  I have girls, so ‘pretty’, ‘cute’ and colorful is what they like.  Boys will need the basics.  How many containers you use will depend on your child’s hair styles and how fancy you wish to get.   
  •  Give thought to where you will store your ‘mini mobile hair salon’.   You will likely want to have items easily accessible and tote able. Where will you be fixing your child’s hair most often? 

Investment, organization and a comfortable working space are logistically important considerations.  It takes some time to twist and plait hair, and it will go more smoothly when you have everything you need at your well oiled fingertips.  

 Well Dressed Hair

Many adoptive parents struggle when it comes to the actual execution of caring for their child’s hair.  Below is a list of essential items you need for your child to have well dressed hair at any age.

  • Combs – The following adaptation from a famous medieval playwright does NOT apply in this case.    ‘A comb by any other name is still a comb’.  

Ethnic hair textures vary greatly from fine and soft to very thick and course with varying combinations in between.  Using the right comb (and brush) for the particular hair texture your child has is important.   

Generally, you need a fine tooth comb, a detangler comb, and an extra large wide tooth comb.  For brushes, I highly recommend the wooden style with medium to stiff bristles.   Boys will like the wooden oval palm brushes.

  • Shampoo and Conditioner – Babies hair is usually very soft whether thick or fine.  The ‘no tears’ baby shampoos will be everything you need for a while.  After that, ramp up the moisture building products.  Look for products with key words like:  rich, conditioning shampoo, oil, moisturizing, cream shampoo, or cream conditioner.
  • Detangler Spray – Conditioning Detangler spray is you and your child’s best friend in the whole picture of hair care.  You may notice that curly hair coils around itself creating painful tangles and mats in the hair.  Detangler sprays and cream leave-in conditioners help relax the coiled hair and mats so they can be combed out. 
  • Beads, Ballies, Bows, Elastic Bands and Clips – These accessories you can acquire over time as needed and depending upon the type of styling preferred.  Be aware that elastic bands are a consumable item and these things need frequent replacing.

The Glory of Black Hair       

In the black community hair is an important part of ethnic identity!  It is braided and coifed, twisted and knotted, shaved and carved.  The glory that is black hair is made into dreads, adorned with extensions, and corn rowed into elaborate designs. 

 Learning how to care for your child’s hair is an essential piece in blending the multicultural elements of your family.  Now that you have a head start, stop trembling!  You are a white women in the know!  Now, wash the hair gel off your hands and go play with your beautiful kids!


Look for my next  article on this topic: TACKLING TROUBLESOME TANGLES!

If you would like to explore your questions about issues related to cross-cultural adoption, contact me as DeborahBeasley20@yahoo.com, or 609-970-1100. 

WEB: www.TogetherAtLastFamily.com